Guides to understanding events in Paraguay

Thanks to Bill Smith at the University of Miami for flagging this piece on events in Paraguay by the University of Birmingham’s Andrew Nickson. As Nickson points out in “Paraguay’s presidential coup: the inside story ” (probably the best short piece available on Paraguay), the only way to get a handle on Lugo’s ouster is to understand the intimate details of internal Paraguayan politics. This includes understanding how the national elite have manipulated land reform laws and captured virtually the entirety of the state and political system to advance their own individual interests. Nickson succinctly maps out the family connections that form the underpinning of the perversions of constitutional structures in Paraguay. This is probably the one piece you should read on Paraguay.

If you are looking for a more detailed mapping of the background to political and economic affairs, the University of Bath’s Peter Lambert wrote a superb overview of the country for Freedom House entitled “Countries at the Crossroads 2011: Paraguay“. Lambert is another leading scholar on Paraguay and co-editor with Andrew Nickson of the definitive collection on Paraguay’s first decade of democracy, The Transition to Democracy in Paraguay (MacMillan, 1997), which unfortunately now appears to be out of print. The pair have a new book with Duke University Press coming out later this year entitled, The Paraguay Reader: History, Culture, Politics.

Other recent academic articles of interest on Paraguay include

Robert Andrew Nickson. “The general election in Paraguay, April 2008” Journal of Electoral Studies 28.1 (2009): 145-149.

Robert Andrew Nickson. “Political economy of policymaking in Paraguay” Losing ground in the employment challenge: The case of Paraguay. Ed. Albert Berry. New Brunswick (USA) and London (UK): Transaction Publishers, 2010. 265-294.

Brian Turner, “Paraguay 2009: Many Differences and Little Change,” Revista de Ciencia Política 30 (2) (2010).


If you are looking for book length reading, Hugh O’Shaughnessy’s The Priest of Paraguay: Fernando Lugo and the Making of a Nation is a bit thin on its treatment of Lugo, but provides a great deal of insight into the underlying political and social conditions in Paraguay as viewed through the role of the Catholic Church in that country. It is worth a read.

A far more irreverent approach that focus on the entertaining and titillating, but nevertheless gives the reader a good sense of the extent to which Paraguay stands as a unique case in South America is the travel memoir At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig by John Gimlette.

As a British Ambassador to Asuncion once noted (I forget which one), be careful when turning your attention to Paraguay. The country is strangely captivating and tends to breed obsessive interest that never quite goes away.

–Sean Burges

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Filed under Democracy, Paraguay

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